East Midlands Airport brings in a new managing director

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East Midlands Airport (EMA) has appointed Clare James MBE as its new managing director. Clare replaces Karen Smart who is leaving EMA to take up a similar role at Manchester Airport, which is also owned by MAG (Manchester Airports Group).

Clare’s immediate focus will be to help the airport bounce back from the current Covid-19 crisis. Clare will also build on the progress that has already been made in taking forward ambitious plans to grow EMA’s unique offer as both a key airport for leisure travel and the UK’s most important for express freight and dedicated air logistics traffic. As the figurehead of one of the East Midlands’ most high-profile businesses, Clare will continue to champion the important role the airport plays in the success of the regional economy and job creation.

Clare has many years of experience in aviation and, like her predecessor, began her career in the RAF, where she served for 26 years, resulting in the rank of Group Captain. In fact, Clare and Karen’s paths first crossed 26 years ago when they were both Officers serving in the Falklands.

For the past year, Clare has held the position of operational excellence director at MAG where she led the group’s restart and recovery programme in response to COVID-19. Clare joined MAG from NATS, the national body responsible for managing the UK’s airspace. There she had responsibility for Air Traffic Control across some of the UK’s busiest airports, including Manchester and London Stansted. Previous roles include Airfield Operations Director for Serco.

Clare’s appointment coincides with the re-start of EMA’s summer season. In ordinary times, the airport would be approaching its peak season for passenger travel. 

While passenger travel was hit hard due to restrictions on overseas travel, EMA continued to demonstrate its national importance and resilience throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. As the home of the UK’s largest dedicated air cargo operation, EMA has played a critical role in keeping Britain moving when lockdown restrictions brought much global trade to a standstill resulting in the airport briefly being elevated to one of Europe’s busiest. 

Clare says, “I am delighted to have been appointed as EMA’s managing director. I join at a time when airports need to quickly adapt to multiple challenges; the Covid-19 pandemic, our commitment to sustainable growth, and the increasingly important role we have in the communities we serve. I will continue to operate and grow this airport responsibly and sustainably to ensure that it fulfils its potential as a global gateway for people and products, and as a good neighbour and member of the local community. Collaboration and cooperation have never been as important as they are in this current climate and I look forward to getting to know the region well and supporting the work that is underway to position the East Midlands as an attractive region in which to invest, grow businesses and live.”


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